Great news! "Thanking Our Troops is now available on www.HeavenlyPatchwork.com at a special $5 publisher's discount for only $14.95. Containing the heart-warming stories of the 200 patriotioc quilts that are touring the US and Baghdad for four years with all profits from the books and $100 exhibit fees going to provide quilts for wounded soldiers. You can see photos, entry and rentals info and calendar of exhibits and programs on www.HeavenlyPatchwork.com. I’d like to tell you about one of these soldiers:
Edmond resident Jack Hayes was setting up a cannon to defend an airstrip when North Vietnam Regulars burst from the rubber trees twenty feet away, guns blazing. Jack spun around and returned fire before a bullet from an AK47 pierced his stomach and exited through his back. Medevac airlifted Jack to the Saigon Field Hospital where officials quickly honored Jack by pinning on his uniform a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and V for valor. Then they ceremoniously pulled a sheet over his head pronouncing Jack Hayes dead.
Only by God’s grace did Jack survive that injury which fractured his back, and the Agent Orange that poisoned his organs. During the ensuing years he underwent thirty-five major abdominal operations to remove his stomach, appendix and gall bladder, and endured countless complications. Nonetheless, Jack still radiates the joy of the Lord and praises Him each morning for the blessing of life.
For his last birthday October 17, 2008, I presented Jack with a replica of a Civil War quilt with an appliqué of an American eagle holding an olive branch in its beak. Mary Chenoweth, great-great-great grandmother of Kristen Chenoweth, created an eagle quilt top for her son Benjamin Franklin Chenoweth after he left for war in 1862. She prayed that he would return home safely and for peace in America with every stitch she took.
Benjamin brought his cherished quilt top, his wife and sons and their families from Missouri in a covered wagon caravan to join the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889. They homesteaded farms near Hinton in Indian Territory. Benjamin’s wife and daughters in-law quilted the top with their names, dates and family history documented in the threads for future generations.
That Civil War eagle quilt, which recently appraised for $8,000 to $12,000, now adorns the cover of Oklahoma Heritage Quilts, and I featured it in my Centennial Stitches—Oklahoma History in Quilts book. I made a smaller version of the quilt to tour with the God Bless America Touring Quilts that benefits our soldiers. A reproduction of that Civil War Eagle quilt made by Connie Heffron, a Chenoweth cousin hangs behind me in the photo.
When Jack received his appliquéd eagle, he cried at the thought that someone would take the time to express gratitude for his military service. The quilt follows him in and out of the hospital as he valiantly fights for his life. “Jack curls up in his colorful red, gold and green quilt for comfort,” his wife Sue shared. When the pain becomes too intense to bear, he strokes the trapunto three-dimensional wings as if the eagle gives him energy to soar to a higher level of faith. When Jack’s spirits need lifting, he traces the quilt’s embroidered “Thank You Jack” with his fingers and realizes that his suffering for his country was not in vain, but documented in this tangible memorial.
Jack delights in telling the history behind his quilt. To him, the mighty eagle is the personification of American freedom, strength and bravery. When asked how he has survived the last forty-one years, Jack answers, “When storms and tragedy strike our lives, we can decide to be like a rooster who hides wet and shivering in the corner of the henhouse, and eventually dies. Or, we can rise above the storm on wings of an eagle to soar to new heights. I’ve chosen to live each day through God’s promised strength like the eagle.”
Jack loves to remind his family and friends that we have the power to choose whether we live in freedom or captivity; to live triumphantly or in hopelessness and defeated by our circumstances. Jack recounts the story of the boy who tried to test the wise old man by capturing a tiny sparrow in his hands. The boy held his cupped hands out to the old man and asked, “What do I hold in my hands?” Said the wise old man, “It appears that you have a tiny bird.”
Hoping to trick the old man, the young lad asked, “Is it alive or dead?” The lad planned to prove the old man wrong by crushing the bird if he guessed it was alive, or releasing the bird to fly away if he said it was dead.
The wise old man said, “You hold within your hands the power to determine whether the bird lives or dies—just as your choices determine whether you live free or in captivity.
To Jack Hayes, his eagle quilt was a visual declaration that he has chosen to rise above his suffering on the winds of adversity to live free in victory.
Six months after his birthday, wrapped in his eagle quilt, Jack soared on eagle’s wingsto even great heights, triumphantly above all pain, right into His heavenly Father’s awaiting arms to receive his ultimate reward—the shiny stars in his golden crowns.
Jack’s inspiring story of courageous sacrifice on our behalf to keep our nation free is but one of many recounted in "Thanking Our Troops—God Bless America Touring Quilts" with all book and exhibit profits providing more of these comforting quilts for our wounded warriors—our unsung heroes. Won't you help support this worthwhile project by ordering this book for your friends and family for Christmas on www.HeavenlyPatchwork.com.